It was a business idea hatched during a family holiday. Try Local is an online marketing platform created by Rebekah Carter to encourage Kiwis to ‘support local’ and assist New Zealand’s hard-hit tourism and hospitality industries.
“I launched the platform as a cost-effective, alternative option for tourism and hospitality operators to showcase deals and offerings. The concept of Try Local is designed with operators in mind – no commissions, no vouchers and no booking systems,” she explains. “Also, all enquiries are direct. So if end-users have questions, or want more information, they are sent directly to the operators. This way operators are fully in control and retain direct relationships.”
The initial strategy was to go region by region but Rebekah quickly discovered that many operators have multiple locations to list.
“I was getting inquiries from operators nationwide keen to come on board. Having listings from all over the country worked out better, as one of the biggest challenges for an online business like mine is that Catch-22 situation where you need enough content on the site to attract the users and you need users to attract the operators.”
“To overcome this, I offered a free trial and used the trial period to really market the site. PR was a top priority and I worked hard on spreading the word.”
Through social media Rebekah managed to steadily grow and maintain her follower base.
“I also travelled a fair bit, meeting as many operators as possible, handing out flyers and trade presenters. It hasn’t necessarily been an easy journey, but an incredibly rewarding one.”
Accommodation providers and activity operators have really taken to the site, she adds.
“Aside from big players like booking.com, trivago and wotif, who are predominantly overseas owned, there aren’t many New Zealand-owned marketing opportunities out there. I get so many positive comments from operators. They love dealing with a small Kiwi business.”
“For me, there are multiple aspects to measuring success. Obviously a key one is my client base – the operators. Try Local isn’t a ‘pay per click’ or ‘commission-based booking agent’. Instead we charge a small monthly subscription fee. And because all inquiries or bookings are funnelled directly to the clients, we don’t measure actual conversions. Instead, views and click-through are measured regularly. I can tell when there has been certain market activity that Try Local has generated by the spike in views. It’s hard not to get hung up about numbers because not everyone clicks on a deal. Some users are looking for more info and planning for a future adventure rather than an instant purchase. Ultimately, if I can deliver clients one extra monthly booking or additional inquiries or views they wouldn’t normally have received from elsewhere, then they are already ahead.
“People love the Kiwi style of the site, and the fact that you don’t need to download or sign up to anything to access any deals.”
The business has taught Rebekah a lot. “Especially not to get discouraged if people say ‘no’ or things aren’t going how you anticipate. There’s always another option.
“I’ve learnt to surround myself with positive people who can support and advise me; to have perseverance and to be flexible.
“Remember, doing the right thing always pays off. I’ve had operators tell me times are so hard, they do a happy dance when they get one booking.”
Rebekah confesses that the tourism and hospitality industry means the world to her. “This is my way of doing what I can to help. Try Local will morph over time but I’m here for the long haul.”
For more information go to: https://trylocal.co.nz/